For the past decade, Jim White has forged a unique place in the world of alt-country with brooding, Gothic songs infused by his Southern Pentecostal upbringing.
But if all you've heard of White are the songs on critically acclaimed albums like 2007's "Transnormal Skiperoo," you're missing half his act. White's humorous onstage stories are also part of his appeal. Expect to hear some yarns when he plays at Jammin' Java on Friday.
"If you go to my live show, it's a 50-50 split between talking and music," says the Florida native. "I was signed to a major label without ever having played live. I'd play shows and my guitar would get out of tune, so I would talk just to fill the space while I was tuning. Slowly but surely, it started becoming part of the performance."
White's new live EP, "A Funny Little Cross to Bear," contains a few of his hilariously wry spoken word observations. But his bipolar approach to performing can baffle people, like recently, when he played a highbrow arts subscription series in Kansas City and gave a droll interview to the series organizer before his concert. Then he played pensive tunes like "Jailbird" and "A Town Called Amen."
"Everybody was laughing [at first]; then I get up and I sing eight sad songs in a row," he recalls. "Afterwards, someone came up to me and said, 'You know, I was so looking forward to you singing some funny songs. You didn't sing one.'"
That fan isn't alone. Some listeners have said White should consider going into stand-up. No chance.
"There is something in me that's drawn to sorrow and pathos," he says. "I'm slowly learning how to blend humor and the pathos together. It's a challenge."
Becoming a comic, though, wouldn't be White's first major career change. The 51-year-old has built surfboards, driven a cab and even modeled.
"All the other models were going to discotheques. I was sitting there in my hotel room writing songs, staring out the window, and thinking 'Why is Jesus driving me crazy?'"
--Tony Sclafani, Express (Nov. 2008)